How to Survive the Effects of Festive Season Over Indulgence – Indigestion and Food Intolerance…

Written by December 2015 Phoebe Wynne-Lewis, BHSc, Dip Nat Med, Dip Herb Med – FxMed Technical Support

Imagine how many mince pies and bottles of beer Santa Claus has had to consume by the time he gets to your house? Maybe we should be leaving him a few capsules of digestive enzymes and a cup of aloe vera juice instead…

December brings an endless barrage of work functions, gatherings & get-togethers. Most of us love it, but at the same time we begin to suffer that heavy seasonal feeling of too many fun nights out starting to take their toll. Fortunately, with a few tricks up our sleeve, we can have our cake and eat it during the festivities and frivolity.

Christmas is a time of family, friends, love and laughter… and eating & drinking too much! No matter how many times you promise yourself that this year you won’t over-indulge, you and I know that as quick as you can say ‘pavlova’ that third helping of Christmas pudding will appear on your plate, and disappear just as quickly!

And while you might shrug and think it’s all part of the festivities, saying you’ll worry about the inevitable weight gain in January, there are some overindulgence side-effects that cannot be ignored…


Indigestion (dyspepsia) is a common problem over the festive season. For most, indigestion occurs only occasionally, and is due to over-indulgence in food, caffeine and/or alcohol (on Christmas day for example). It isn’t surprising, as our average Christmas lunch is estimated to provide 950 calories (half the recommended daily requirement for women) and 48g of fat. Combined with a lack of physical activity, such over-indulgence is bound to result in discomfort including bloating, heartburn & nausea.

Tips for your patients to reduce over indulgence symptoms
  • Sitting down relaxes the digestive tract so you are less likely to suffer if you eat slowly, allowing the digestive system to realise when it is full.
  • Leave a gap before you reach for a second helping, as it gives your body a chance to tell you whether it has had enough.
  • A gentle walk after lunch will help to beat bloating and avoid indigestion.
  • Try to avoid indulging late into the evening and then going to bed on a full stomach.
  • Soothing teas such as chamomile, ginger and peppermint aid digestion helping to relax the stomach muscles after a meal.
  • Reduce carbonated drinks as they can worsen the problem as can beans, legumes, cabbage, asparagus, brussel sprouts, onions and artichokes – they may encourage the production of intestinal gas and cause bloating.
  • Fatty rich foods take the longest to digest and so aggravate indigestion and heartburn. Try to choose more of the starchy carbohydrates and lean proteins as they can help to stimulate more bile and improve digestion.
  • Over-indulgence, even in the short term, changes the bacterial composition of the gut, increasing the detrimental bacteria associated with ill-health. A probiotic supplement could help to combat this if taken regularly and in advance.
  • Herbs such as milk thistle and globe artichoke may be beneficial as they rapidly increase liver production of bile to improve digestion.
  • For those who want to eat it all and eat more than usual, they may appreciate the extra support a comprehensive Digestive Enzyme supplement can provide.
Food Intolerance

Food intolerance, also known as non-IgE mediated food hypersensitivity or non-allergic food hypersensitivity, refers to difficulty in digesting certain foods. Food intolerance is different from food allergy. Food allergy triggers the immune system, while food intolerance does not. Some people suffer digestive problems after eating certain foods even though their immune system has not reacted.

Foods most commonly associated with food intolerance include dairy products, grains that contain gluten & foods that cause intestinal gas buildup, such as beans and cabbage. The best approach if you have a food intolerance is to eat less of the culprit food or cut it out completely – another challenge when caught up in the moment!

Onset of symptoms typically occur several hours after ingesting the offending food or compound and may persist for several hours or days. In some cases symptoms may take 48 hours to emerge and may include; bloating, migraines, headaches, cough, runny nose, feeling under the weather, stomach ache, irritable bowel & hives.

Causes of food intolerance

Absence of an enzyme – If key enzymes required for digestion are missing or insufficient, proper digestion may be undermined. People who are lactose intolerant do not have enough lactase to break down the lactose into smaller molecules that the body can absorb through the intestine. Lactose cannot be absorbed through the gut wall into the bloodstream. If it remains in the digestive tract it can cause spasm, gut pain, bloating, diarrhea and gas.

Chemical causes of food intolerance – A sensitivity to naturally occurring food chemicals can cause symptoms of intolerance. These chemicals include:

  • Salicylates – natural preservatives found in a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, nuts and spices
  • Amines – produced during fermentation, aging and ripening. Examples include;
    • Histamine – Histamine intolerance may result in migraine headaches, gastrointestinal symptoms (such as diarrhoea), flushing, hives, eczema, and allergic rhinitis. Most foods that are high in histamine are highly processed or fermented: wine, aged cheese, yeast containing foods, sauerkraut, spinach, tomatoes and red wine. All alcoholic beverages can be problematic for people with histamine intolerance because alcohol can make one of the enzymes that metabolizes histamine in the body less effective. This enzyme is Diamine Oxidase (DAO)
    • Caffeine – in coffee, tea and chocolates
    • Glutamate – an amino acid found naturally in all protein foods
  • Gluten Intolerance – gluten is a protein found primarily in wheat, barley & rye. Gluten Intolerance can cause digestive problems such as gassiness, abdominal pain or diarrhoea.